Saturday, October 06, 2007

Ken Bruen's jaded view of the Celtic Tiger

I ought to make a list of contemporary crime-fiction writers who are skeptical of claims about economic miracles. It would constitute, I suspect, a good syllabus for anyone who wants a salutary opposing view to prevailing orthodoxy or, should I say, cheer leading. Declan Hughes, Christopher Brookmyre, the excellent Brian Thompson and Peter Temple are just some of the fine crime writers who have cast jaundiced eyes on post-welfare-state prosperity.

I'll now add Ken Bruen to that list thanks to passages like this from The Magdalen Martyrs:

"`It's a Mont Blanc, the Agatha Christie limited edition. Want to hold it? ... Out of your league, Pops.'

"His expression now was rampant with the New Ireland, smug, greedy, knowing. He said,

"`I have a set of these, cost more than you'd earn in your whole miserable life.'

"I decided he was too stupid for a slap in the mouth."

It's typical or Bruen that his slap at the new nouveaux riches is more personal and also funnier than those of most crime writers.

And now, it's your turn. I gave you a list a of crime writers who raise their hands and say, "Hold on there" to claims that this is an economic golden age. Help me enlarge that list.

© Peter Rozovsky 2007

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Blogger pattinase (abbott) said...

A bit off topic here, but for visuals of the new economic prosperity in China, see "Manufactured Landscapes," which is a documentary on what the new China looks like. What industrialization, globalization, urbanization has cost them.
I wonder if any writer is portraying this house of cards economy positively.

October 07, 2007  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Your note is very much on-topic, I'd say. I'm not sure the crime fiction I have in mind condemns the phenomenon as much as it issues salutary reminders, -- shouts, really -- that it does not include everyone.

The specific criticism may be less of the economic phenomenon than of the boosterism that surrounds it. In The Magdalen Martyrs, for instance, there are hints that unspecified powerful people want to block Jack Taylor's investigation for fear than it will dig up old ghosts and dampen the mood of optimism in the New Ireland.

Not that there's any mistaking where Bruen's characters stand, with their caustic remarks about the new apartments going up in Galway, or Jack Taylor's reflection that his sanctuary, Bailey's Hotel, is "one of the few remaining private ones in Galway."

October 07, 2007  
Blogger Barbara said...

Martin Cruz Smith contrasts the New Russia with the old one in Stalin's Ghost. There's a lot of money and hype in Moscow while people in Tver (formerly Kalinin) are living in a sort of ghost town, longing for the old days. Ironically, a veteran of the Chechen war is launching a new Patriot party with the help of American campaign/marketing advisers. It's quite a brilliant commentary on money and greed and politics.

October 07, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It depends on your perspective. All "economic miracles" are for the few. Michael Walters' books show this for Mongolia. But surely, in any society, there are those that prosper and those that don't?

October 07, 2007  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks, Barbara. That sounds worth a look. Brian Thompson's short story "Geezers," from one of Maim Jakubowski's Best British Mysteries collections, contains some pointed and very funny exchanges that highlight one group that benefited handsomely from the changes in the old Soviet Union.

October 07, 2007  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

That's right, Maxine. That's why crime writers, being the skeptical types that they are, don't write balanced assessments of the long-term economic and social impacts of globalization or Thatcherism or the breakup of the Soviet Union. Instead, they remind us that not everyone benefits.

And yes, I'd say Shadow Walker does a decent job of remaining ambivalent about Mongolia's economic development.

October 07, 2007  

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